Remote Work: Challenging Conventional Wisdom for Talent Retention

By Marcelo Barbosa

According to Global Workplace Analytics95% of employers say working from home positively impacts employee retention and losing a valued employee can cost an employer $10,000 to $30,000. Stanford University's paper, The Evolution of Working From Home, asserts that “some organizations have embraced remote work as a means to improve recruitment and retention, moderate pay growth, reduce space needs, and cut overhead costs.” Finally, TalentNeuron reports that two out of three candidates who currently work in a hybrid or remote work model place high importance on a remote work model (full or hybrid) in their job search.

Conventional wisdom, often rooted in old practices and biased perspectives, can be superficial and rigid. It favours the status quo, prioritizing familiar practices over innovative solutions.

Here are key points in the conventional wisdom applied to advocate for employees' return from remote to in-office work. In-office work is believed to enhance collaboration and communication, with face-to-face interactions seen as more effective for team dynamics and problem-solving. The physical office is viewed as essential for fostering company culture. Direct oversight in an office setting is thought to lead to better productivity and accountability. Networking and visibility within the organization, crucial for career advancement, are seen as further advantages of in-office work. Spontaneous office interactions are thought to spur innovation and creativity. Finally, the controlled environment of an office is believed to be more secure, especially for handling sensitive information.

These arguments reflect traditional views on work environments, although evolving work cultures and technological advancements are challenging and reshaping these beliefs. **Following blindly this approach can harm an organization's strategy, especially in dynamic sectors**. Organizations may inadvertently stifle flexibility and innovation by clinging to outdated notions.

Remote work offers a strategic advantage in talent retention. And organizations are nothing without their people. Remote work can accommodate the diverse needs and preferences of the workforce. By allowing employees to work from locations of their choice, organizations can reduce the personal and familial disruptions often associated with relocation.

This flexibility becomes a powerful reason for employees to stay because it allows them to contribute to top-tier projects and work for prestigious organizations without incurring the costs and stress of relocating. This means having the opportunity to work on compelling assignments that might have been geographically inaccessible in their place of residence, opening doors to a broader range of career opportunities and also reducing the personal turmoil and financial burden that moving can entail.

Equally, many individuals who reside in the same region of the organization’s office may prefer remote work over in-office work, even when offered a higher salary in an office-based position. Global Workplace Analytics indicates that 36% of the employees would choose to work from home over a pay raise. This preference can be attributed to the benefits of remote work on job satisfaction and overall quality of life.

Remote work may offer an unparalleled level of work-life balance. This flexibility is crucial for effectively managing personal and professional responsibilities. The ability to juggle work with personal life, family responsibilities, or hobbies without the constraints of a traditional office environment is highly valued.

In a Microsoft study, 47% of respondents say they are more likely to put family and personal life over work than they were before the pandemic. In addition, 53% globally and a staggering 70% in Latin America say they are more likely to prioritize their health and well-being over work than before.

Remote work is particularly beneficial for those with family responsibilities, as it allows them to be more present for their loved ones without compromising their professional responsibilities. Health and wellness benefits are also notable. Remote work also allows for a healthier lifestyle, including opportunities for regular exercise, better dietary habits, and reduced exposure to illnesses.

Another key factor is the time and cost savings of eliminating the daily commute. Among workers surveyed by Fiverr who said they preferred to work from home, 63% said they wanted to save money and time commuting. In cities where commuting can be a costly and time-consuming affair, the savings in time and money can often outweigh the allure of a higher salary.

Many employees are also more productive and focused when working from home. Data from Fiverr's study indicates that over a third of the workers surveyed (35%) found working in an office was distracting. The absence of typical office distractions and interruptions can lead to a more efficient workday.

Another advantage of remote work lies in the ability to personalize the work environment, a feature that contrasts the often one-size-fits-all nature of traditional office spaces. This flexibility enables the creation of a workspace that is not only comfortable but also tailored to meet individual preferences and requirements. Such customization can range from ergonomic furniture choices that reduce physical strain to the selection of ambient elements like lighting and noise levels, which can significantly impact concentration and productivity.

Environmental considerations also play a role in the preference for remote work. Remote workers can have a 54% lower carbon footprint compared with onsite workers, according to a study by Cornell and Microsoft. The reduced carbon footprint associated with not commuting is especially important for environmentally conscious individuals, adding an ethical dimension to their job choices.

Remote work enhances the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workforce by offering the flexibility to work from home and tailor the work environment to their specific needs. As mentioned by Global Workplace Analytics, more than 12% of the working-age population in the United States are disabled (16 million). A full three-quarters of unemployed workers with disabilities cite discrimination in the workplace and lack of transportation as major factors that prevent them from working. Remote work helps overcome the logistical challenges of traditional office settings, enabling comprehensive participation in professional roles and promoting a more diverse workforce.

The overall improvement in quality of life that comes with remote work and its consequent effect on talent retention often outweigh the advantages of an office-based role advocated in the conventional wisdom. In today's job market, where work-life balance and personal well-being are increasingly prioritized, the benefits of remote work can be decisive factors in job choice and employee retention.

Organizations that embrace remote work as part of their talent retention strategy likely find themselves at a competitive advantage. They retain top talent and foster an environment of innovation and flexibility. Also, by adapting to this change, they move beyond conventional wisdom and are better positioned to thrive. They harness remote work as a necessary strategic tool for building a resilient, innovative, and competitive workforce.